It's funny to think how Pierre-Luc Gagnon (the media calls him PLG but to his buddies he's PL) was once a scrawny, peripheral Québécois skater–one of those odd rookies who insisted on a future in Vert skating. Over ten years later, of course, Pierre-Luc doesn’t just contend with upper-echelon Vert skaters like Danny Mayer, Andy MacDonald, and Bucky Lasek—he regularly beats them all. We can chalk up his his ongoing insistence that bigger and more technical is the route of true progression. Pierre-Luc said scoring high in the Vert competitions is "a matter of doing something original. That's what skateboarding's all about." The contest judges have responded in kind, awarding the now 29-year-old nearly every Vert trophy at the prestigious Tampa Pro since the early aughts. This past year was one of his best, as he snagged the 2008 Dew Cup, along with the inaugural Maloof Money Cup. Going into a month that has both Maloof Money Cup and the Dew Tour Skate Open, ISF World Championships in Boston, we’ll get to see if Pierre-Luc is on track to defend his titles or not.

Below we catch up with Pierre-Luc as he runs some errands around his surrogate home of Carlsbad, California.

Alli: Who are some skaters you tend to skate with? Do you skate with Shaun White? He lives in Carlsbad, too.
Pierre-Luc Gagnon: Yeah, but right now I don't know if it's over but it's been like snowboard season so he hasn't really been there, but I mainly skate with Danny Mayer, Jake Brown.

Didn't Danny Mayer get second place at Tampa?
Yeah he got second at Tampa–it was a great battle, too. He also got third place at the last stop on the Dew Tour in Orlando. Yeah Danny's on fire, he's killin' it. It's awesome to skate with him because we motivate each other and we're kinda battling for a top spot lately. I've also been skating with Jake Brown—he's been filming for the Blind video–been skating with Colin McKay too, that's been like filming for a Plan B video and stuff.

I always thought it was cool how you're a Vert skater who also skates street. I've read that if you want to learn a tech lip trick that you go learn on a ledge first then go learn it on a Vert ramp. Is that a common way for a Vert skater to learn?
I don't always do that, but a lot of the time it helps. If you can't do a flip trick on flat ground then it's gonna be kind of hard to do it on vert. So I've been trying to skate flat and skate ledges, and it definitely helps your vert skills.

Have you ever shot any street photos?
Yeah, but I haven't shot much street lately because the standards have gotten so high. I could shoot something that's pretty decent but it'd be hard to shoot something that's ground-breaking compared to what street skaters do. That's why I've been mainly focusing on vert because there I can definitely do ground-breaking stuff. That said, I'm working on this little interview now and I'm getting a bunch of photos and stuff. I'd definitely like to get a street photo in there.

Who are you shooting with?
Right now I've been shooting with Jody Morris. He freelances for quite a few magazines, like Transworld, Skateboarder, and the Skateboard Mag. He said he'd hit up a few magazines and see where we can get it in. So right now I'm getting ready for this up-and coming-year and trying to shoot photos at the same time.

In the world of vert contest-skating, do you think there has been more of a retrospective appreciation for old school tricks and really smooth airs? Do you think judges are ready to appreciate that?
That all definitely counts for a lot and stuff, but I think if you're only doing a run or just being real smooth and doing big airs, that's something that's been done before by Christian Hosoi. I think skateboarding is about progression and it's about bringing something new to the game that's never been done before, and that's been done before by Christian Hosoi. This is why it was so sick because he was the first one to do it, but if someone goes and does that, it'd be referred to as Christian-type skating–so it's sick if you can incorporate that but you gotta be able to bring something new.